In a little less than a month, Colorado will make the sometimes painful switch to Daylight Saving Time, turning clocks forward an hour, a change that will last until Nov. 1, just a few days before Election Day.
In Colorado, lawmakers have been trying for decades to get the clock-changing monkey off the backs of its citizens, going back to at least 1988, when then-Sen. Bill Schroeder, R-Morrison, tried to get the state onto DST year-round.
“It’s not a joke anymore,” said Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, whose bill — Senate Bill 105 — on making Colorado a year-round DST state is awaiting its first hearing in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
It was originally scheduled for Monday afternoon but has been laid over to another date while Scott and Senate Democrats work out a solution that would put the decision into Coloradans' hands, instead of, or perhaps along with, ceding control to Congress.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, has introduced a bill, known as the Sunshine Protection Act (S. 670) that’s gained bipartisan support from senators whose states have already decided they want off the time switch, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Patty Murray, D-Washington.
Rubio’s bill would put the entire nation on Daylight Saving Time year-round.
“It’s now a ‘when,’ not an ‘if,’ ” Scott said.
In 2011, then-Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, asked that his bill to put the state on DST year-round be heard on the day after the switch. Sleepy-eyed lawmakers on the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously to approve the bill, but it died in Senate Appropriations. That’s the furthest the issue has ever gotten.
Brophy now is trying to gin up support for the ballot measure that would make DST year-round, although he’s tried before and failed.
Seven states have already done away with the clock switch, pending approval of Congress. That includes California and Florida in 2018 and five more states (Washington, Oregon, Tennessee, Maine and Delaware) in 2019.
Two states, Hawaii and Arizona, have not recognized DST for decades.
Utah also passed a resolution that asked Congress to put the entire nation on DST year-round but it did not commit Utah to doing that for now. In 2019, 40 states looked at 78 bills on one form or another of DST, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures, and 17 came close to adopting measures on ending the change.
Scott told Colorado Politics on Monday that he’s doing a strike-below — basically, a do-over — that would allow voters to make the choice. It would be a choice unlike any other ballot measure, asking voters to choose whether they prefer year-round DST or year-round Mountain Standard Time.
In October, a poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 71% of Americans want the semiannual changes to end. As to what people prefer, the poll was more or less split between those who prefer year-round DST and those who would stay on standard time all year.
Scott said Monday that he believes it’s one of the most bipartisan issues the legislature will look at. He said that privately, Democrats hate the switch as much as Republicans, but special interests have blocked previous efforts every year.
Opposition to the bill — meaning the clock switch would continue on as scheduled — is coming from both the ski industry and the Motion Picture Association of America and its member broadcast networks.
Putting Colorado on DST year-round would make Colorado residents "woefully out of step" with the rest of the states in the Mountain Time Zone, they say. Broadcasters would have to move their current programming to air an hour later than what Colorado residents rely on, the association said in a statement.
The ski industry's objections focus on how it would impact their operations, including safety protocols. That would require, for example, employees to prepare daily ski operations in the darkness of the early morning hours in the early part of the ski season.
Should Scott’s bill meet its demise in Senate State Affairs, however, that does not mean the issue is over for the session.
Sen. Jeff Bridges, D-Greenwood Village, says he loves Daylight Saving Time, but he hates the switch.
“I’d rather not have to change my clock. It makes me cranky, it increases the number of traffic accidents, and there’s a measurable cost to the economy,” he said.
Bridges supports Scott’s bill, although he’s not a member of the State Affairs Committee. But should Scott’s bill not clear the committee, Bridges said he is in the early stages of drafting a memo to Congress on the issue.
“I’m in the awkward position of supporting something that Senator Rubio is doing,” Bridges said, joking that “a broken clock is right twice a day.”
Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, pointed to a November editorial in the Pueblo Chieftain that called him out on the issue and asked that the legislature consider year-round DST.
“In these deeply divided political times in which we live, this could be an issue that unites us all,” the editorial said.
“I’m intrigued by the proposition of it,” Garcia told Colorado Politics. “We’re finding now an opportunity to consider the policy around it, and I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome."